“Pizza” is very much an umbrella term. There is pepperoni pizza. There is anchovy pizza. There is vegetarian pizza. And, of course, there is the ever controversial Hawaiian pizza.
And that doesn’t even crack the surface of pizza possibilities. But despite their differences, all of the aforementioned pizzas, and, indeed, the vast majority of mainstream pizzas, have one thing in common: gluten.
Gluten plays a surprisingly large role in most traditional pizza recipes, which is why celiacs have very limited options when they enter the average pizzeria in New York or Chicago (and that’s if they have any options at all). Worry not, gluten-free pizza lovers! Although they can be a little difficult to find, gluten-free pizzas do exist and are offered by many of the big-name pizzerias, including Domino’s and Pizza Hut.
Gluten-free pizza can also be purchased frozen from most big-name grocery stores, as well as from certain specialist stores online and in the real world. Some manufacturers of frozen gluten-free pizzas even sell their products on Amazon and eBay!
Ingredients of the Gluten-Free Pizza Crust
While the gluten content of a pizza will be influenced to some degree by its toppings, the greatest concern for celiacs comes in the form of the crust, which is the base of the average pizza.
Most mainstream pizzerias and frozen pizza brands rely on wheat flour as the primary ingredient of their crusts and bases. This, of course, causes problems for those who must adhere to a gluten-free diet as wheat flour is high in gluten and when consumed in the amounts used to create even a small pizza, can wreak havoc on a sensitive digestive system.
A gluten-free pizza crust mix features no wheat flour and is therefore safe for consumption by celiacs and other pizza lovers who must avoid gluten, be it for health reasons or out of personal preference. But if not wheat flour, what is gluten-free pizza crust made of? There are a number of possible wheat flour alternatives, the most popular of which are explored below.
Rice flour is commonly used as a substitute for wheat flour and is particularly popular when it comes to the manufacturing of gluten-free pizzas. There are actually two different kinds of rice flour to choose from – white rice flour and brown rice flour – although the differences between the two are minimal.
As well as being gluten free, rice flour has a number of advantages over wheat flour. For example, rice flour is high in fiber and will maintain a healthy and regular digestive system, whereas wheat flour can have the opposite effect.
There is also evidence to suggest that rice flour promotes healthy functioning of the liver. But if rice flour is so great, why isn’t it used in all gluten free pizza recipes? The answer lies not in the taste of rice flour, but in its texture.
Rice flour, whether white or brown, creates a flaky, almost pastry-like pizza crust, so it should be avoided if you’re hoping to get your gluten-free pizza as close in taste and texture to traditional pizza as possible.
If a gluten-free pizza crust does not rely on rice flour as its primary ingredient, there is a good chance its recipe called for manioc flour instead. Manioc flour is quite a bit more versatile than rice flour and often appears in soups and stews as a thickening agent, but it also serves as a perfectly acceptable replacement for wheat flour in a number of gluten-free pizza crusts.
Along with being more capable of recreating the texture of a traditional pizza crust than rice flour is, manioc flour is low in fat and sugar, so you should choose a manioc flour-based gluten-free pizza if you’re watching your weight.
If you have purchased a gluten free pizza but can’t find manioc flour listed among its ingredients, it may still be present. Manioc flour actually goes by a number of different names and is sometimes referred to as “tapioca flour” or “cassava flour” in recipes and cookbooks.
Cauliflower isn’t seen all that often in store-bought gluten-free pizza crusts, but it pops up again and again in homemade gluten-free pizzas, so you should give it some thought if you are hoping to prepare your own gluten-free pizza from scratch.
In order to recreate the texture of wheat flour, cauliflower must be grated or placed in a food processor, so it’s certainly more time-consuming than the previous two options. That being said, cauliflower boasts its own unique set of benefits, such as improving cardiovascular health and increasing iron absorption.
Cauliflower has even been shown to combat the growth of cancer cells, which is not something that can be said of rice or manioc flour.